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Desert Disappointment: Arizona State Instant Reactions

Defense dooms the Huskies in a 45-38 loss.

Washington v Arizona State Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Another game in Tempe, another loss. It doesn’t seem to matter what shape Arizona State’s program is in, they inexplicably play some of their best games of the season against Washington.

Washington started with the ball and marched right down the field, mostly riding Wayne Taulapapa. They got a little clogged up in the red zone but Michael Penix Jr. punched it in on a QB sneak to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead. Things were going well.

On Washington’s first drive defensively they curiously put in true freshmen S Tristan Dunn and DT Jayvon Parker, but it didn’t matter as ASU went right down the field, and Washington was only saved by a 4th-and-1 penalty, forcing ASU to settle for a field goal. On Washington’s next possession they got deep into Sun Devil territory but had to settle for a field goal of their own. The Huskies were moving it well between the twenties, but struggled in the red zone and the defense couldn’t get any pressure.

Down 17-10, Husky fortunes went from bad to worse. Asa Turner got ejected for targeting, and a Penix pass bounced off Jaxson Kirkland’s helmet into the waiting arms of an ASU defender, who took it into the end zone to give ASU a commanding 24-10 lead. Washington did respond, promptly driving to the 2-yard line and punching it in, to cut the deficit to seven.

Early in the second half, it looked like things were going to get somehow worse. Washington turned it over on downs after Arizona State stuffed an Odunze jet sweep, giving them the ball on the verge of the red zone. I’m sure you can guess what happened next: even against a backup QB, Washington’s defense offered zero resistance and Arizona State promptly scored. But, a few Richard Newton scampers and Penix completions later Washington made it 31-24 to keep within striking distance.

The momentum was short lived as Arizona State’s backup and former walk-on QB carved up the UW defense and just like that, it was 38-24. Washington luckily got bailed out by a pass interference penalty and Cam Davis punched in his second rushing touchdown of the day to make it 38-31.

The defense tightened up to start the fourth quarter, with Davon Banks intercepting ASU on 3rd-and-15. With their best starting field position of the day, Penix twice found Odunze for big gains to bring the Huskies near the goal line. Then it was Cam Davis again who barreled into the end zone, and a Henry PAT made it 38-38.

With the game tied, Arizona State converted a 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-7 en route to making it 45-38. Against a Sun Devil team that was converting roughly 30% of their third downs entering this game, they were 9/12 late in the fourth quarter, an unacceptable outcome for any defense. The one thing the Husky defense could hang their hat on coming in to this game was the pass rush, and against a porous offensive line, they generated no pressure.

With less than two minutes left in the game still trailing by a touchdown, Penix converted a 4th-and-long but took a rough hit to the helmet and had to come out. Dylan Morris completed the next pass before Penix re-entered the game. A few plays later he fumbled a low snap causing the Huskies to lose a staggering 30 yards. The resulting 4th-and-35 heave was not completed, and clock struck zero. Penix threw for 311 yards but took 53 attempts to get there, and was held without a passing touchdown. Every time the offense would fight back, the defense would let them down by imploding on 3rd downs.

The fact is, Washington gave a previously 1-4 Arizona State team its first FBS win this season. The Husky defense is in shambles, and it’s not just injuries. There are serious questions to be asked about the coaching and scheme. They better find answers quickly with Arizona’s pass game coming to Seattle next week. At this point, Jayden de Laura might set new records in Husky Stadium.

The Huskies are now 1-2 in Pac-12 play and 4-2 overall.